13 March 2014
Finally, good news! Lots of good news actually. After my initial attempts to get in touch with the responsible authorities have been somewhat unsuccessful, I am now on track towards getting this field research done. I tried calling Caltanissetta and Swilengrad, but as soon as they realised I was speaking English they hung up the phone. Another strategy was called for. I contacted my friend Martin and asked if he could help me. He lives in Italy and speaks both Italian and Bulgarian. Martin replied promptly, “I must help you, comrade.” He called up the municipal authorities in Harmanli and Swilengrad. Both of them are willing to assist my research! In Harmanli, the reception centre is located in a small village nearby. They told Martin that I would just have to swing by and tell them I want to visit. In Swilengrad, it seems as though I will be able to speak with the authorities as well. Sounds really good! Lyubimets is the only place that I want to visit that we haven’t contacted yet. It is home to one of the most notorious camps in Europe.
Alex and I also undertook serious efforts to get my research in Greece going. Emails don’t seem to work. Phone calls were needed. The first thing I suggested was that we call the municipal authorities in Orestiada. Orestiada is a city of around 25,000 people right next to the Turkish border. It is one of the few parts of that border where there is no river which makes entry into Greece for undocumented migrants significantly more difficult. The city houses the only Greek detention centre, although a second one is currently being set up on the island of Lesbos. Alex called Orestiada’s authorities and spoke Greek. People were reasonably cooperative, and we were forwarded to the local police station. It turns out that the police is indeed who is responsible for organising visits to the detention centre, but that it is the Greek national public relations department who hands out the authorisation to do so. This was clearly a step forward. A visit to the detention centre was at least possible. We then called the public relations department in Athens. The person we spoke to had no idea why we would call there, but forwarded us to someone who may know something about asylum and migration issues. That person, in turn, was very helpful, and after a small wait found out the number of Panagiotis Nikas – this was the guy I needed. His secretary asked me to write a formal application letter to acquire the necessary authorisation. I did so immediately and faxed it through right away. I hope that a fax is harder to ignore than an email. They told Alex that a response could be expected very soon, which I hope means tomorrow.
Another thing I should perhaps mention: yesterday I booked tickets to fly from Leipzig to Istanbul. I am leaving on Sunday and will only stay for a couple of days. I got a cheap hotel in Edirne and a rental car set up. (Can’t wait to drive in Istanbul!) I was planning on just having a look around the area to prepare for my real research trip. But now it looks as though I could actually get the bulk of it done! I am really starting to look forward to all this. Now I have some more reading to do on applying grounded theory.